Shooting muzzleloading firearms requires rethinking all that you have learned about firearms. It requires discipline to cope with the requirements of being a reloader and rifleman at the same time. It requires strict adherence to the instructions set forth in this booklet. FAILURE TO FOLLOW THESE INSTRUCTIONS MAY CAUSE DAMAGE TO THE FIREARM AND INJURY AND/OR DEATH TO THE SHOOTER OR BYSTANDERS AND DAMAGE TO PROPERTY.
Odd as it sounds, your safe introduction to muzzleloading firearms requires a good deal of reverse thought. Our forefathers, trained in the use of muzzleloaders, had little difficulty using the products of their day or adapting to improved concepts as each new idea presented itself in a normal progression. The transition from flint lock to cap lock to breech loader each represented a step forward toward a more technically sophisticated era. Users of firearms had hundreds of years to adapt to these changes. In a single lifetime, no one was exposed to drastic change.
The muzzleloading enthusiast of today, however, has been trained in the use of cartridge firearms. To safely use a muzzleloader he must adjust his thinking backward - bridging hundreds of years of product development - in one giant step! Those reading this booklet must face the realization that the design of a muzzleloading firearm is rooted in tradition. In other words, a manufacturer of muzzleloading firearms, while he does have the benefit of using modern steel, proper heat treating and other technical advances, does not have the option of drastically altering a design which is centuries old. To use a muzzleloader safely requires considerable mental adjustment on the part of today's shooter.
Modern cartridge firearms depend heavily upon the strength of a brass cartridge case to seal the chamber and to safely confine expanding gas. Equally it is the cartridge case which holds the bullet in a fixed position, confines the powder charge to a given volume and controls headspace. Modern cartridge firearms are designed to withstand high working pressures since these same pressures make possible the high velocities, flat trajectories and increased range of modern ammunition. Yet, the modern firearm is no stronger than the cartridge case that is used in its chamber. If the case ruptures, the primer punctures or if the headspace is altered, hot powder gases under extreme pressure will flow back through every seam in the action possibly destroying the firearm and causing injury to the shooter
The propellant charge in a muzzleloader is poured directly into the barrel of the firearm and then compressed by the projectile in the chamber area. Think about this for a minute! Lacking the restraints and protection supplied by a modern cartridge case, the muzzleloading charge rests directly against the steel chamber walls and the face of the breech. The ignition port in a cap lock or flint lock is a simple hole leading directly into the chamber. Certain surfaces of the breech and nipple are directly exposed to chamber pressure. Judged by the design standards set for modern firearms, the muzzleloader is extremely primitive. Its design will not tolerate high pressure.
The following text applies to the use of your Thompson/Center muzzle-loader with Black Powder or Pyrodex charges properly restricted to the loading information shown in this booklet. It deals with those conditions which singularly or cumulatively can affect muzzleloading pressures.
For years it has been assumed that it is impossible to overload a firearm using Black Powder. The theory was that only a certain portion of a heavy Black Powder charge will burn and that the remaining powder is blown out of the bore in unburned condition. This thinking led to the belief the pressures created by a Black Powder charge would reach a certain (undetermined) range and climb no higher. Our testing indicates that this theory is completely unfounded. As heavier and heavier charges were loaded our pressure readings climbed accordingly. At no time was there any indication of a leveling off of pressure. Unreasonably heavy charges of Black Powder or Pyrodex can be dangerous. Restrict yourself to the loads listed in this booklet and start with the lightest load shown for your particular model and caliber. Bear in mind that the following conditions can be cumulative. If you load the heaviest charge listed without following instructions (working slowly upward) then other conditions such as powder fouling, hard projectiles and improper loading, can carry you well beyond the maximum safe pressure range of muzzleloading firearms. All propellant powders (depending upon their design and composition) will function most efficiently within a given pressure range. Our testing indicates that the Black Powder used in our testing operated most efficiently at or near the midway point in our loading charts, and recorded the highest velocity in relation to the lowest pressure. Heavier loading showed marked increases in pressure and substantially more recoil for only minor gains in velocity.
Fouling in the bore of a muzzleloader will increase pressure. When shooting a muzzleloader, consecutive shots without cleaning will display rapid shot-to-shot increases in pressure, a variation in velocity and a resultant decrease in accuracy. As Black Powder fouling builds in the bore of your muzzleloader, loading will become more difficult until it reaches the point where it becomes impossible to properly seat the projectile.
Different types of lubricants used in cleaning, or in conjunction with lub-ing patched round balls and conical projectiles will produce different degrees of fouling when they react to the combustion of Black Powder. Generally, petroleum based (or synthetic) lubricants will produce far more fouling, and cleaning the bore between shots will be necessary in order to maintain consistent pressures, or ease the loading process from shot to shot.A natural lubricant such as T/C's Natural Lube 1000 Plus Bore Butter will season the bore from shot to shot, drastically reducing fouling. The shooter will not have to clean between shots, and pressures will remain consistent.
Muzzleloading projectiles must be cast from pure lead. Many lead alloys, such as those found in Linotype and wheel weights, resemble lead but will cast hard, oversize projectiles. Such projectiles will prove extremely difficult to load and raise pressures even in a clean bore (see section on "Bullet Molds"). Never use lead alloys to cast muzzleloading projectiles.
Any increase in bullet weight with a given powder charge will always increase pressure. If a shooter has been loading a patched round ball and then decides to use the heavier Maxi-Ball or Maxi-Hunter he must go back to the starting charge and work up slowly to the best performing load.
Improper loading can lead to a serious and dangerous pressure condition. To function properly the muzzleloading projectile (Maxi-Ball, Maxi-Hunter or Patched Round Ball) must be seated tightly against the powder charge. Never fire a muzzleloading firearm if the ball or bullet is only part way down the barrel. Mark your ramrod, as explained in the "Loading Section", and follow instructions carefully.
Variations in patch lubricants and bullet lubricants will effect velocity and accuracy, as well as having an effect on the amount of fouling which develops. Use of T/C's Natural Lube 1000 Plus Bore Butter, an all natural lubricant, developed far less fouling, and permitted extended reloading between shots without the necessity to clean between these shots. Velocity and accuracy improved over other lubricants used.
The preceding text is offered in an attempt to guide the novice and to help him obtain optimum results from his muzzleloading firearm. The reader must bear in mind that a muzzleloader is not capable of developing the high velocity or handling the high pressures of a modern firearm. Restricted to a primitive design, the muzzleloading hunter takes game by depending upon a large caliber, heavy bullet traveling at a mild velocity.
Discharging firearms in poorly ventilated areas, cfeaning firearms or handling ammunition may result in exposure to lead and other substances known to cause birth defects, reproductive harm and other serious ' injury. Have adequate ventilation at all times. Wash hands thoroughly after exposure
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